So, I wrote a short story for a contest

>> Saturday, January 31, 2015

This was the NYC Midnight Short Story contest for 2015, and this is the story for the first round. Results won't be available until March, but you can read it now for fun. I was in heat 47, where I was assigned a genre (historical fiction), a main character (shoeshine boy) and a premise (moving to a new city).

So, I wrote "Stowaway in Seguin"



           Etienne knew he had to move. Apparently, this compartment held baggage intended for this town and it was only a matter of time before he was discovered. Had he made it to San Antonio?
            He pushed aside the long wooden box he'd been hiding behind and returned the carpetbag he'd rested against to its proper spot. In the heated darkness of the room packed high with luggage, he had no idea how long he'd traveled. It felt like days, but he doubted it was more than one or two. Even so, he was very hot and very thirsty and the jug of water he'd stolen was empty.
            Perhaps he could sneak some food and water and maybe slip back on the train he if wasn't in San Antonio yet. He had to be in Texas, right?
            The door was still open from where the handlers had pulled the first cartload of luggage. Etienne knelt at the edge and breathed in, hoping to get a sense of things from the smell, but he couldn't smell more than oil and smoke, the smells of the train. Used to the darkness, Etienne blinked in the square of bright light: the washed out blue of the sky uncluttered by clouds, the scrub and grass, bleached and hardly discernible from the dusty ground, the few scruffy trees set back from the train. He was far enough from the busy platform, he doubted anyone would notice him if he snuck out.
            He checked the slender sling over his shoulder that contained his spare shirt, then  dragged his heavy box of shoe shining supplies up next to him. The clothes on his back, his shoes and his box were all he owned in the world. He positioned the box right at the lip by the opening before turning and sliding backwards off the car.
            The ground was further than he'd imagined and he scared himself going down before his toes touched the ground. After that, he could barely reach his box and nearly dropped it on his own head bringing it down.
            "Reckon you ain't got a ticket." The voice was gravelly, low . . . slow.
            Etienne nearly dropped his shoeshine kit, but kept hold and wished he were brave enough to wipe the sweat off his face. "I—I didn't see you."
            "I reckon you didn't. Didn't see you either, but I heard you scrambling around in there and came to see." The man had a quid of tobacco going and he turned to spit before adding, "Glad you ain't a rat."
            "No, sir."
            The man, tall, slim, dusty, studied him. Etienne did the same and decided he'd never seen anyone quite like him. First, his voice was different, different from the Cajun and Creole and southern patriarchs that frequented the whorehouse where his mother had worked. His voice was slow, the vowels drawn as if he had time to spare. The man wore a brimmed hat with the sides curling up and a dimple at the top. The hat was greasy and dirty but still stiff. His shirt was of a faded red, wrinkled and well-worn, but not tattered, tucked into a pair of denim pants, faded in an odd pattern. They looked well-worn as well. The man's boots were a cracked and dusty brown. He'd seen clothes like this among some of the laborers in New Orleans, often those that came from the country or even out of state.
            But the face, Etienne didn't think he'd ever seen a face quite like it. He was clearly white but the skin of his hands, of his face, was nearly as dark as Etienne's mother had been. His face was seamed and lined, his jaw scratchy with stubble. The man's face didn't seem old so much as exposed, cracked and eroded by the elements just like those boots he wore. The eyes, though, were bright and alive, grayish-blue and lightning shot with white as if they were created in a storm. In his dark face, his eyes were startling.
"Got a name, boy?"
Etienne wasn't surprised at the term. That was what he was called most often, since everyone knew he was the son of a mulatto and therefore colored. Still, Etienne, outside of his own world, had passed for white before. His skin was fairly light and his hair, though curly, was not the same coarse texture as his mother's had been. His eyes, though, were very dark, nearly black. He didn't know yet if this man had seen through him. "Etienne Baker." Etienne shifted under the unrelenting stare and wondered if he could put down his kit. It also occurred to him he was in desperate need of a privy. "Are you the stationmaster?"
"Nope. Where's your ma, Steve?"
That perhaps startled Etienne more than anything. In all his years, he didn't think any white man had ever called him by his name before. Nor had he expected this man to know the English equivalent of his French name. "She's—she's dead."
The man chewed on that along with his tobacco.
When the silence became too much, Etienne asked, "Are you a lawman, sir? Am—am I in trouble?"
The man spit. "I ain't a lawman, Steve, but seems to me, with you sneakin' off the train and your ma dead, you're in a heap o' trouble. Where's your pa?"
Etienne shrugged. "Don’t know. No one does, not even my ma." He rarely had to explain himself—no one had cared—but he felt he had to expand. "She was a whore."
The man's eyes widened a bit at that, but he only said, "Well. So I'm guessin' you don't have much home to go back to."
Etienne looked down but didn't close his eyes because he knew what he'd see, the greasy cobbles, the pretty brick building with wrought iron stained with grime and reeking of old piss. His home from the day of his birth, eleven years before, all he knew was here: his mother, her keepers and the steady stream of affluent men whose manners and kindness seem to evaporate once they closed the door behind them. He'd shined their shoes, but none had shown half the interest in him this stranger had, or shown any kindness except a coin tossed in the dirt for him to scrabble for. Worse still were those that had acted nice, but their eyes were hungry, predatory in the same way that men who came to take his mother were hungry. As if his mother, and even himself, were only something to be devoured.
Etienne shuddered.
After he'd stumbled out of his mother's room where he'd found her strangled by some patron, Etienne had snatched his kit and run. He'd run before anyone found out, before they knew his shield was gone and would look to him to fill her shoes as other houseboys did when no one was there to stop them. He couldn't say it, didn't ever want to say it, didn't want to remember it. But he knew he would, that his nights would remember it for him when he couldn't stop it. .
The man spit again. "You a colored boy, Steve?"
It was foolish to think those sharp blue eyes would miss it. "Yes, sir."  The heat and fear were making Etienne a little light-headed. He felt dizzy and tired, tired of running and being scared. "I'm colored."
"Thought you might be," the man said in a matter-of-fact way. "You needn't be scared, Steve. Y'all ain't slaves any more. Well, someone young as you never was."
Etienne shrugged, weariness winning out as the fear receded. "Don't see that much difference for a whore. They chased her down if she left. Seen 'em do it with other whores, black or white, just the same. Don't see how that's different."
The man nodded. "Guess it not that different now you mention it. What's in the box, Steve? You didn't steal nothin' when you left, something someone might be looking for?"
Etienne shook his head. "It's a shoeshine kit. I didn't steal nothin' but myself and no one's likely to think I'm worth chasin'."
For the first time, the man smiled. The vivid eyes lit up and, for a moment, those eyes seemed a perfect match for that face. "Shoeshine kit?" A chuckle in keeping with his low rumbling voice shook the man. "Ain't got much call for shoeshinin' 'round here. You'd have done better to head to San Antonio."
Etienne sighed. Of course they weren't there yet. "Is it far?"
The smile evaporated. "Not very. That what you want, boy, to go back to that world and shine shoes?"
Etienne set down his kit with a sigh of relief as he mulled over his answer. "No." He licked his cracked lips and wished he had water. As if the man had read his mind, he walked back to a wagon standing near at hand and retrieved a canteen. Wordlessly, he gave it to Etienne. Etienne drank deeply before handing it back, not even thinking about his being colored. The man didn't seem to notice either. "No, I don't want to. But it's all I know."
The man slung the canteen over his shoulder. "That's all you know yet. How old are you, Steve?"
"Eleven. Sir." It was easy to lose his courtesy, distracted by his painful bowels and the man's overt interest.
If the man guessed his latest discomfort he made no sign. "As you were getting' on a train, why'd you choose to come here, Steve? Why not the North where there's cities like New York and Boston? Where a boy might shine shoes without having to work in a whorehouse?"
Etienne hesitated. His reason was personal and probably would sound stupid to a man like this. "I heard," he offered hesitantly, "that people in Texas ride horses every day, horses like that horse there on your wagon."
That smile crept back over his face. "Well, Steve, reckon you stopped in the right town after all." He turned his head as a couple of men wearing dark blue approached with a hand cart. With a jerk of his head, he told Etienne, "The outhouse is back behind the station over there. Come back when you're done." He looked at Etienne sternly. "I'll guard your kit."
Guessing that explaining would likely be more painful with the people approaching, Etienne sprinted away. Much relieved several minutes later, Etienne was debating whether he wanted to risk retrieving his kit as he left the smelly shack only to see the man had followed him, a long wooden box now gracing his wagon. If the man had been concerned that Etienne would run, he showed no sign of it. Etienne could see his kit already stowed on the wagon. The man leaned back against the wagon, his hat shielding his face and, notably, his eyes. But his arm was draped over the side of the wagon, the palm of his hand on the long wooden box. So that was why the man had been there, to retrieve the box.
"Can you read and write, Steve?" the man asked without showing his face.
"Some. Mama taught me." Etienne hesitated, because he knew what he was asking was personal, but he felt compelled. "Sir, did you come here for that box?"
 "Yup." The man's hand stroked against the rough pine of the box with great gentleness. "I came for her. Met her up in Kansas after a cattle drive. I'd just loaded the last of my herd on the cattle cars and she steps off another train from Boston as dainty and fresh as a daisy. All in cornflower blue. She wanted to ride horses, too, real horses, not the prissy ones they've got back east, wanted to live on the frontier. Turns out she didn't want to marry some old coot back home and had run away but I didn't know that. Didn't care neither."
"Your wife?"
"Yup. Prettiest bride in Seguin. She didn't know nothin' about hard labor, but she didn't let anything stop her, not Pauline. Stubbornest woman I ever did see. She didn't look it, but she was tough as nails on the inside." He lifted his head and Etienne could see his eyes were bright with unshed tears. "Wasn't enough. Consumption. Here she was increasing with our baby, while her body shrank to bones. Her sister came and got her, took her back to Boston to have the baby. She said they had hospitals n Boston, that if there were anywhere they could save her. . ."
Tears leaked and slid down the crags of his face. Etienne realized that it was despair and misery that had carved some of the lines of his face. "I couldn't go. Cattle drives won't wait. When I got back, I got the wire that she had died in childbirth, the baby, too. They didn't want to send her back, but I made 'em."
Etienne didn't know what to say, done in by the agony before him, wondering why the tears were falling down his own face.  Did Etienne weep because of this man's pain? Or did Etienne weep because he hadn't yet grieved for the only other person who'd ever cared about him, who'd loved him even though she'd brought him into this crazy world.
The man sopped his eyes with dirty blue bandana and then shoved it in his pocket. "Name's Bill. Bill Thompson. You want to ride horses?"
"Yes, sir," Etienne whispered around the tears in his throat.
"Best come with me, then. We can always use another hand on the ranch."
Without another word, he swung onto the seat of the wagon and offered Etienne a hand. Etienne didn't hesitate. "I can really ride horses? Be a cowboy?"
Bill looked at him. "You could. They do a lot of farmin' 'round here, too, and some orchards if you'd rather go that route. Or, you could get more schoolin'."
"Really?"
"Well, there's a school the coloreds run, even a college that can teach you skills if you want 'em. Hell, there are some Negroes that started a potter business 'round here if you're interested. The way I see it, a man has a duty to build the life he wants for himself. Every man."
"Every man?"
"Yup." Bill smiled down on him. "Tiny little girl from Boston taught me that. So I'm teachin' it to you."

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New Release: Saving Tessa

>> Saturday, November 22, 2014

I just released my personal favorite of my novels (so far) today. You'll be able to find it at the compelling price of $4.99 at your favorite retailer.

Dylan Chroz, high school senior, had a reputation as the unchallenged king of the technical world, a genius with dozens of patents to his name. He also had a reputation for being as cold and calculating as the supercomputers he could design in his sleep.

So he was unprepared when Maxcomm discovered what really mattered to him: the spunky girl at the center of his existence. Or when they stole her away so they could use her against him.

It was a mistake, of course, to make an enemy of Dylan, even if he was hampered by his fear for Tessa. After all, people who threaten Tessa were definitely not going to come out unscathed.

And Maxcom didn't appreciate what those around Dylan will do to help him save Tessa.

But the real mistake they made was thinking Tessa was going to sit quietly by and get used. As if Tessa would stand for that!

That last mistake was really going to cost them

Contains some language and violence. You can find Saving Tessa on Smashwords

In the iTunes store

On Amazon.com

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

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Ah, L'Amour

>> Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Romance.

Something of a dirty word in literary circles, not just because so much of what's published today under the category of "romance" is, well, smut. (Personally, I have a great deal more respect for those that publish graphically described sex under the unabashed title "erotica" but that's a separate point).

And that's a pity, because love, as a theme, has been popular since time immemorial, not just in women's literature but in legends, in mainstream novels and making some inroads in every other genre. I, personally, love romance, which is why I hate most romance novels I've been exposed to my last twenty years.

Why? Well, first there's the caliber of much of the writing. Just because the plot is basically pre-defined with only a few details to provide, doesn't mean everything else should be throwaway. Cardboard characters, substandard writing, implausible connections and plot devices make many of the assembly-line quality romances available as appealing as cleaning the bathroom the day after a major night of binge drinking. Nor is the caliber of such writing improved by use of a thesaurus (please, I'm begging you). If you don't know what the word means, the nuances of a word, don't bloody well use it. When I see someone riding over the "emerald verdant green grass" on the first page, it's the last page I'll be reading.

But the caliber of the writing is only part of the pain, because, as I've explained a few times in the past, what passes for romance tend to be three different things: (a) [least offensive but least interesting] two forgettable people thrown together in implausible circumstances who show no connection whatsoever but somehow end up as a couple, (b) two people who hate each other all the time, but who heat up the sheets like no one's business (a recipe for romantic disaster in my opinion) or (c) a variation on a or b where we "liven things up" by having the "hero" rape the heroine for spurious reasons. I find all of these the opposite of romance, with the last especially unadulterated misogyny, inflicted on women by other women.

It doesn't have to be that way. Georgette Heyer, still called the Queen of Regency Romance though she's been dead for forty years (and her books are still mostly in print, I might add) wrote engaging, historically believable, entertaining, hilarious love stories with characters of surpassing depth (yes, even her stock characters). Love stories because the people the heroes (and heroines) cared about were more important than themselves, were worth sacrifices, were precious and treated as such. Sex, naturally, was not much a part of these romances, in keeping with the times and the care with which our heroes guarded the virtue of their ladies - because that was one sign of respect and adoration. After all, if a girl was ruined, she suffered far more than the ruiner. I have to add that there's a sophistication to these stories, an appeal that's hard to describe but let me just say I've hooked more than one male friend on these books.

More recently, I've discovered Nora Roberts (who also writes under the name of J.D. Robb for some futuristic thrillers) who manages (at least in all the books I've read) to avoid falling into the trap of lifeless characters and hateful or raping protagonists. She's also quite humorous. However, from what I've been exposed to (and I haven't had the stomach the past decade or so to try many new romance authors for this very reason), she is very much the exception and not the rule.

That's how pervasive these attitudes are in our culture, not just men, but also women. So, why bring it up? I read something today that really got my mind thinking, something that surprised me. Now, as most of you who know me know, I tend toward liberal/feministic thinking. Not going to apologize, just a reminder for those of you who somehow missed that. Most of my friends on Facebook tend the same direction.

So, imagine my surprise when someone posts a link to an article about a young woman who chooses to stay celibate until marriage and how difficult this is to communicate with potential dating partners and how difficult it was to maintain a relationship. Among other things, she struggled with having the convey this message early enough in the relationship but not weird out potential partners on the first date. She she even dated a very conservative Christian who not only was the women-should-be-seen-and-not-heard type she found hard to stomach, but also put more sexual pressure on her than her other dating partners.

If you're confused why I was surprised, let me explain that I wasn't surprised this was posted. What surprised me were the attitudes of my liberal, anti-rape, pro-feminism friends who described her as a "fundamentally an extremely dishonest, disingenuous and manipulative individual" because she didn't tell guys on the first date. And not just one person or one gender piped in with more along the same lines: that "Physical intimacy is a normal and healthy expectation of romantic dating" or that she should limit her choices to those on a "Christian website" because "she should stop trying to date men that aren't part of her pretty circumscribed social set." She was categorized as a "conservative right-wing Republican" (not sure why that had to be so) and "drama queen." 

Whoa, wait, what? Since when is it wrong for a woman to decide when and to whom she wants to have sex? Or that she has to give her sexual history to guys (on the first date no less)? Or that she has to justify her position in any way? That sounded to me (and still does) like the "expectation" that dating involved sex was somehow an obligation on her part. And that many, otherwise liberal pro-women people considered the onus entirely on her to warn away potential partners from the get-go. My response (which I'll repeat here) is, why shouldn't someone who feels sex is an expectation say it on the first date: "If you don't put out in a reasonable time frame, I'm walking. I'm only interested in dating people willing to be my sexual partner." (I'm sure that would go over well)

Why is the freedom we've all fought for (and I also defend) for women to share their bodies as they choose to (for any reason they want) not apply to women who, hey, don't want to share their bodies with just anyone?

To be honest, I was appalled, not only that this attitude was so pervasive (both men and women: ""I think physical intimacy is a near given in romantic dating, otherwise it is a platonic friendship"), but how insulting it was to both men and women.  Men can't be passionate about someone, love someone without sex? Women can't find someone precious and charming, can't love to spend time and do things with someone she isn't copulating with? That argues that the freedom to have sex for pleasure mandates you must or you are somehow an aberration. And, even if that's the prevailing attitude, I think "majority rules" should have no bearing on what an individual wants to do with his or her body. Talk about the opposite of romance!

(What if your partner is parapalegic or otherwise physically incapable? Going to toss him/her to the scrap heap? Very "passionate!" Great love story!)

Now, don't get me wrong. I love sex. I also, however, see it inextricably linked to love. For me. I don't tell anyone else what motivation they have to have, but that's my motivation. I've had two sexual partners (total) who were also my two husbands. That's not a coincidence. I don't regret having sex with either (even the psycho) and I don't regret NOT having sex with all those people I chose not to have sex with. Someday, I'd like to have sex again, but I'd only be interested with someone I cared deeply about, someone who cared about me. For me, if someone told me they'd drop me if I didn't put out, I'd wave goodbye with a smile. I'm worth more than that. 

Here's the thing, guys (and girls), when people talk about removing the rape culture, we don't just mean brute force, we mean coercing girls into thinking they have to have sex to be loved. Girls (or guys, for that matter) pushed into sex before they're ready or for the wrong reasons often live with a crushed sense of self-worth every bit as painful as a rape victim's. And we need to stop pushing it if we want it to get better. 

I'm all for romance, real romance, where people learn to love each other and, when they're ready, when they both want it, finding love culminated in each others arms. 

But that's just my opinion (repeatedly documented in my own books, I might add). I'm open to hearing what you think. Feel free to chime in.

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Computer Haiku

>> Sunday, September 21, 2014

A few years back, I posted a bunch of cute computer haiku I'd found. I didn't write these but I did enjoy them. I hope you do, too (I included author if I had it):

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.
– David J. Liszewski

The Web site you seek
Cannot be located but
Endless others exist.
– Joy Rothke

Errors have occurred.
We won’t tell you where or why -
Lazy programmers!
– Charlie Gibbs

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot
Order will return.
– Suzie Wagner

ABORTED effort:
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.
– Mike Hagler

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.
– Margaret Segall

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
So beautifully.
– Simon Firth

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
“My Novel” not found.
– Howard Korder

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao until
You bring fresh toner.
– Bill Torcaso

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.
– James Lopez

 Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.
– David Dixon

You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
This page is not here.
– Cass Whittington

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.
– Francis Heaney

Having been erased,
The document you’re seeking
Must now be retyped.
– Judy Birmingham

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.
–Ian Hughes

Server: poor response
Not quick enough for browser
Time out, plum blossom.
– Rik Jespersen

Rather than beep
Or a rude error message:
These words: “File Not Found”.
– Len Dvorkin

The code was willing!
It considered your request,
But the chips were weak.
– Barry L. Brumitt

Everything is gone.
Your life’s work has been destroyed.
Squeeze trigger? (yes/no)
– David Carlson

No keyboard present
Hit F1 to continue
Zen engineering?
– Jim Griffith

This site has been moved
We’d tell you where, but then we’d
Have to delete you.
– Charles Matthews

Printer not ready.
Could be a fatal error.
Have a pen handy?
– Pat Davis

Logon incorrect!
Only perfect spellers may
Enter this system!
– Jason Axley

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.
– David Ansel

Ten thousand things
How long do any persist?
Explorer is gone.
– Jason Willoughby

Seeing my great fault
Through darkening blue windows
I begin again.
– Chris Walsh

This site uses frames
And yet your browser does not.
One of these will change.

For a new PC,
Center of my universe,
I abandon all.

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Fourth book, third novel coming out September 15

>> Saturday, September 6, 2014

I have another book, Nine Lives, available for preorder that will become available September 15. Right now, you can order it for $2.99 (price will go to $4.99 after it's released). You can preorder it now from Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Apple as well as Smashwords, which has available in all formats including Kindle. (It will be in on Amazon.com sometime on September 15).

That's three books already out, Conjuring Dreams (short stories),  Tarot Queen (adult novel), and  Beast Within (YA novel). 

"Trapped on a planet across the universe from their homeworld, more than a thousand youngsters, teachers and crew must make a new home for themselves in this beautiful and dangerous world. Some, however, are shapechangers, Bete, that many look on as demons, so they have more to fear than their new environment. At the same time, their powers have also saved all the refugees more than once. To protect themselves from the humans that fear or hate them, the Bete have started a separate colony from the rest.

With their little Bete colony going well with his foster brother, the intolerably perfect Xander, in charge, Laren, was feeling a trifle unnecessary, which didn't sit well with his pride. Or his temper. But when his arrogance nearly got himself and his best friend Rem killed, he decided to reign back his anger and deal with things with a little more thought.

He did so just in time because Xander became dangerously ill, hurting his mate, the healer, in his delirium. And, at nearly the same moment, the other colony was overrun with those that feared the Bete as demon-spawn. With an unknown disease in the camp and potential attack from outside, a level head was definitely needed. Who would have guessed that Laren would be the one to provide it?

Who knew this being in charge business was so troublesome?

Sequel to Beast Within. Contains some language and violence."


Unlike Tarot Queen, but like Beast Within, Nine Lives is a SF/Fantasy Adventure YA with an ensemble cast, so it's not as racy, not quite as violent and a bit more teen friendly. But, I do think it's quite interesting for adults as well. I make a point of not dumbing down language but letting context clues expand the vocabulary.

Links for all available books and pre-orderable books wills stay in the left hand column.

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Beast Within

So, two books all the way out, Conjuring Dreams and Tarot Queen, and now another book available at bargain prices for preorder: Beast Within

Update: Now it's been released, it's still available at the bargain price of $4.99

"When a ship of youthful refugees maroons on a strange and dangerous new planet, Xander had no choice but to take charge of his shapeshifting clan, the Bete, to protect the strange foreign healer, K'Ti, from humans as well as his own suspicious clan. Among humans, shapeshifting and magic were frequently equated with evil. The lives of the Bete and K'Ti would readily be forfeit if certain fanatical factions discovered their gifts.

After Xander convinced the captain to let them be the first to set up camp outside, the healer's extensive magical skills quickly became key to survival. When K'Ti discovered the Bete's shapeshifting abilities, Xander defied his clan to let her live.

To defend themselves, and the humans, from the vicious predators like the man-sized Klixit, of the new planet, the Bete will need every skill, shred of knowledge and capability they possess. Xander will have to weigh the needs of his clan with his trust of humans, the risk from the dangers all around them, and those that lie within his fellow refugees. "

Unlike Tarot Queen, Beast Within is a SF/Fantasy Adventure YA with an ensemble cast, so it's not as racy, not quite as violent and a bit more teen friendly. But, I do think it's quite interesting for adults as well. I make a point of not dumbing down language but letting context clues expand the vocabulary.


Note also that Beast Within is the first of the Bete series. Nine Lives, the second of the series, will come next.

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Another book available for pre-order!

>> Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I know what you're thinking: "I haven't even finished the first one (which was free)." True, but, if you do finish Conjuring Dreams and are jonesing for something else from my talented brain, you're in luck because you can get a deal on the next novel that takes up where the short stories stop.

Update: It's now out and $4.99. 

This one's not free, but you can get a deal on it since you can preorder it for $2.99 - it and will go to $4.99 after it's published on May 15 (which coincidentally is my 25th anniversary as a Rocket Scientist since I started working at Johnson Space Center in May of 1989). This novel is a grown up story, but fun and hopefully thought-provoking.

Announcing Tarot Queen.


After nearly four hundred years as the Tarot Queen, Roxell might still appear young and beautiful on the outside, but inside she was bored and jaded. Reading fortunes and conjuring futures was no substitute for an adventure of her own, a life of her own. Instead, she felt a prisoner, exiled within the confines of her cottage, growing more and more contemptuous of the supplicants who came to ask for her insight. And, for four centuries, not one person had given her heart the slightest romantic flutter . . .
Until Dante stepped in and turned the life she knew upside down. Handsome, intelligent, capable, he was everything she'd ever dreamed up . . . except that a tryst with a succubus had left him a demon and therefore soulless. The cards said he was definitely her destined lover, but Tarot Queens only get one lover and she had no plan to become a demoness.

For love, she abandoned her self-imposed exile and set out with her ardent suitor on a quest to find a solution to their thorny problem. Turns out, Dante's demonic venereal disease was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to their problems and Dante's mysteries. And Roxell was going to have to depend on her wits and her magical talents far more than she'd ever envisioned when they first ventured out.

And she loved (nearly) every minute of it.

Contains some sexual situations (not erotica) and a modicum of violence.

You can preorder at Smashwords and should shortly be able to preorder from a number of distributors.

A note about Smashwords - they distribute to most of the major ebook distributors like Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobi, Applestore, etc. But, I don't know when they'll show and there's a lag. You can preorder from Smashwords right now in all of those applicable formats. If you're struggling with how to get the downloaded Smashwords files to work with your application or device, you can get insight into how to do it here.

Naturally, no one is required to read my stuff, but, for those of you who might be interested, I wanted you to know it was out there.

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My first BOOK!

>> Saturday, April 12, 2014

At long last with a self-crafted book cover, I have self-published my first e-book: Conjuring Dreams And it's FREE!


"Magic-wielders, shape-shifters, mermaids, empaths and diviners and even teddy bears and computer programmers wander through 26 stories, written into life for situations thought-provoking, compelling or absurd. It's a collection of diverse stories, from the first one written when Stephanie Barr (then Beck) was13-14 years old to the last ones finished last year. The tales show off not only Stephanie's eclectic imagination but the growth of her story telling as she taught herself to write (in the way she wanted to) through writing. So it's all fiction and totally autobiographical at the same time. "

Smashwords: Conjuring Dreams

Hopefully soon it will also be distributed at Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. Will post links when I have them. There are, however, formats available for most if not all readers/computers already available at the Smashwords link. There's also an interview of me.


I've also put it on Amazon but they wouldn't let me do it for free so it's 99 cents: 

Amazon: Conjuring Dreams

My suggestion is to go ahead and download it for free on Smashwords since they have Kindle format there.

More books (namely novels) are coming so "stay tuned".

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I finally figured it out.

>> Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I liked manga and even yaoi, even before my husband left me, but I've been pretty consumed by it the past two years or so since he's been gone. I'm open-minded and all but even I was a little stumped as to why it (Boy's Love manga) was so fascinating to me, why I've all but ignored my regular novels and the like, why even the shoujo mangas I'm stilling buying new volumes of (to finish the series) were languishing while I read and reread my favorite yaoi.

What is it?

(For those of you who think this is better suited to my Rocket Scientist blog because this is all about me rather than the manga, fear not, I'm cross-posting it).

Today, as I'm wiping away tears reading a manga I've read before (single volume: Dekichatta Danshi by Mikagi Tsubaki), I think I finally figured it out, not just why I'm focused on manga, but focused on yaoi in particular. The tears, by the way, were only slightly because the story was touching (though it was) - mostly I was jealous because the touchy hard-case main character had someone who loved him desperately, unequivocally, with everything he had. I just loved Yu and I'd love to have him for myself.

Not Yu specifically (since he's way too young for me and I'm not doing that again, not to mention he's in love with someone else, oh, and fictional), but someone who loved me, treasured me. I used to believe I'd have someone like that in my life.

Now, of course, not so much; I'm pretty much sure that ain't gonna happen. But, for a long time after Lee left, I was starting to question if it EVER happens, if it's ever real. I mean, I love my children with everything. I cherish and treasure them (yes, not the same, but that notion that someone means more to you than yourself, that is the same) so I know that kind of love exists. And, intellectually, I know couples for whom that kind of thinking is part and parcel of their relationship, even if there are little strifes here and there. That devotion to one another remains at the core of their lives.

But I'd lost my faith in that magic. My faith in people who lay it all on the line (as I once did), who strive and struggle because there is someone in their lives they just can't lose no matter what. My faith in the happy ending.

And that was a serious concern for me. Not so much for how I live my life - I can survive the rest of my years as a bitter cynic, probably still even be a good mother if a little extra sarcastic, which probably won't bother my remaining children (the ones that live at home) until/if they start talking.

But it kept me from writing anything knew fiction-wise and that was becoming a serious concern. When I write, I have to feel it or it won't come across genuine, won't come across real. It's not enough to tell myself it's true intellectually - I have to believe it.

Now, of course, I could write novels without any hint of romance, but I don't want to. I've almost always had some sort of romantic mush in my novels because I like it, I like reading it, I want to write it. I want to write novels that still believe in magic and romance and overcoming the nigh impossible. I don't want to be a cynical writer.


So, Stephanie (the person) had to recapture her belief in the wonder of romance in a life chronically deprived of same (and an argument could be made it always was) or she could never be Stephanie (the writer) again. Hence, mangas, where words and characters have more power because, hey, pictures. And yaoi because, hey, most are only a volume or two, the diversity in stories and scenarios is staggering, and the romance (in the good ones) is in your face - immediate and urgent because, on the whole, the romantic partners have a great deal more on the line, and stand a greater chance in losing everything just by mentioning their interest.

(For those of you who think I should publish this on The Unlikely Otaku, since that's about my reviewing manga and that obsession of mine, fear not, I'm cross-posting it there).

There are many other things in yaoi that are rather in your face (so be warned), but that's not why I read it (and the really smutty ones that are all sex/violence and nothing else don't interest me at all). I need that romance, I need to believe in it again.

I've read Dekichatta Danshi before and I didn't cry, I didn't feel it the same way. But this time, I did. I think that means I'm getting it back.

Yay, me.

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